• Kristin Wenger

Building the Church (#52Ancestors week 23: Going to the Chapel)

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

When I first read this week’s topic, “Going to the Chapel,” a song immediately popped into my head:


“Going to the chapel and we’re

gonna get ma-a-a-rried.”


However, many of our Anabaptist ancestors in this area did NOT get married in a chapel or church. They married in homes. For example, in the image below, Eric’s grandma Mary Kathryn (Heller) Wenger describes her marriage to Arthur D. Wenger on 10 February 1951.



Our Amish neighbors still host weddings in their homes today since they do not have church buildings. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday in November or December and I see a multitude of buggies lined up at one home, I can be fairly certain a young Amish couple is getting hitched!


Although most other Anabaptist denominations have moved away from home weddings, it was quite common in the past. In this marriage record for my 3x great grandparents (whose family line I will feature in this story), the minister actually specifies that they were married “at my house.”[1]

A close up of part of the 1888 marriage record of Ephraim S. Faus and Maria S. Nauman



The four-generation photo below pictures Ephraim and Maria as an elderly couple in the early 1940s. My grandma Doris is the little girl and she shared this photograph with me.

Doris Jean Millhouse (front) with (L-R) her grandfather Harry Kramer, great-grandfather Ephraim Faus, grandmother Cora (Faus) Kramer, great-grandmother Maria (Nauman) Faus, and parents Lloyd and Grace (Kramer) Millhouse


Notice in the left margin of the marriage license that both fathers had to give their consent because Ephraim and Maria were 18 and 19 years old at the time. Maria’s father was William Nauman of Rapho Township.[2]




I had already learned that my great-great grandmother Cora N. (Faus) Kramer had been born in Rapho Township[3], but now I was eager to learn more about her mother’s Nauman family.


This chart displays Cora’s family tree.[4]


I would soon find out that my great-great grandmother had deep roots in Rapho Township, where my husband grew up and his parents and brothers still live.


It was this little sign that piqued my curiosity. I’ve seen it hundreds of times when going to visit Eric’s parents and the farm where he grew up.

The “village” of Naumanstown is located on Hossler Road between Earhart Road and North Colebrook Road. [5] My father-in-law's farmland is on the left side of the road.


It made me wonder: Did this branch of my family live on land essentially neighboring the Wenger farm? I used maps, deeds, and some church history research to learn more about my 4x great grandfather William Nauman.


Using an 1875 map, I discovered that William Nauman did indeed live in close proximity to the current day Wenger farm on Earhart Road. At the time, their farm was owned by Abraham Erhart. William Nauman owned 128 acres of land in the section that I labeled “East Fairview Church of the Brethren” on the current map below. [6] An1899 map showed William Nauman in the same location with a “Dunkard Church” on his property.[7]


Here is where church history comes into play. For readers who are unfamiliar with Anabaptist denominations, the chart below provides a quick visual summary.[8]


In researching East Fairview Church of the Brethren and the land near the Wenger farm, I uncovered something I never knew: my 4x great grandfather donated the land upon which the church was built!


The Church of the Brethren originated in Schwarzenau, Germany, in the year 1708, when eight persons covenanted their faith in God by engaging in the rite of Trine Immersion baptism in the Eder River. Choosing Alexander Mack as their leader, these pietists moved forward in their New Testament faith to face bitter persecution. After encountering so much hostility in Europe, they chose the challenge and opportunities of the New World. With Peter Becker as their leader, a group of 120 persons endured the horrors of an ocean voyage and landed in Germantown (Philadelphia) in the year 1719.
Pioneering westward through the Conestoga Valley, the Brethren extended their mission and influence. In 1772, the White Oak group became the first organization of Brethren in this area. In 1868, part of this White Oak territory organized as the Chiques Congregation. In 1902, the Chiques Church divided into four separate congregations: Chiques, Elizabethtown, West Green Tree, and East Fairview.
Prior to the organization of our present congregations, steps were taken at a council meeting in the Elizabethtown Church, March 13, 1893, to build a church at some point east of the original Chiques Church. Consequently, a committee composed of seven deacons decided on a plot of ground consisting of two acres donated by William Nauman. In 1894, a frame structure 50′ by 70′ by 14′ was erected at a cost of $3000.00. This building was known as East Fairview.[9]

This 1915 diagram offers a visual representation of how Church of the Brethren congregations multiplied in Lancaster County from the original Conestoga congregation.[10]



One final document I located provides evidence that the Nauman family lived on and farmed the same piece of Rapho Township land for multiple generations.



A portion of the deed reveals that William Nauman was one of the trustees of Fairview Meeting House, which was formed from Chiques Church and that the denomination had earlier been called the German Baptist Brethren.[11] The deed gives a metes and bounds description of the land and also provides the historical ownership of William’s father Samuel Nauman (my 5x great grandfather) prior to his 1861 death.


If you’ve read many of my family history stories, you probably realize I’ve uncovered quite a bit of tragedy and scandal. I was moved (and honestly somewhat relieved) to find a family of faith and generosity who left a lasting legacy. Instead of “going to the chapel,” William Nauman built one. That congregation of faith still exists today and continues to impact and change lives. Every time I drive past East Fairview Church of the Brethren, I think about my 4x great grandparents and am challenged to consider if I am following their example.


  • Am I giving my time, talents, and treasure to something that has eternal value?

  • What legacy will I leave?


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Take away for your family history:

Use those church records! If you know the denomination or congregation to which your ancestor belonged, you may find a treasure trove of information in church records. Although they may take some work to find, they often pre-date civil records and may be the only source available for earlier time periods. Many denominations are in the process of digitizing records. The effort is well worth it!


Sources:

[1] "Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VF4Q-4MM : 21 September 2017), Ephraim S. Faus and Maria S. Nauman, 1888.


[2] Ibid.


[3] Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 52936, Cora N. Kramer, 11 June 1951, Lancaster County; viewed at "Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966," digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 June 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg. Also, "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M33V-DQC : accessed 7 June 2018), Cora Faus in Ephraim Faus household, Rapho Township, Middle District, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 102, sheet 6A, family 123, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,425.


[4] “Pedigree View” for Cora Nauman Faus in Josh Alexa Nathan Wenger Family Tree, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/51499160/family?fpid=13225226685 : accessed 7 June 2018).


[5] Google Maps, search for “East Fairview Church of the Brethren, 17545.”


[6] Everts and Stewart, “Rapho Township,” Lancaster County 1875; digital image, Historic Map Works (http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/14352/Rapho/Lancaster+County+1875/Pennsylvania/ : accessed 7 June 2018).


[7] Graves and Steinbarger, “Rapho Township, Newtown, Mastersonville P.O, Sporting Hill P.O., Manhein Above,” Lancaster County 1899,page 49; digital image, Historic Map Works (http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/168491/Page+049+++Rapho+Township++Newtown++Mastersonville+P+O+++Sporting+Hill+P+O+++Manheim+Above/Lancaster+County+1899/Pennsylvania/ : accessed 7 June 2018).


[8] Cory A. Anderson, Anabaptist chart, “Categorizing Anabaptistica,” Radix-Anabaptism (https://radixthinking.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/categorizing-anabaptistica/ : accessed 7 June 2018).


[9] “The History of East Fairview Church of the Brethren,” East Fairview (http://eastfairview.com/about/history/: accessed 7 June 2018).


[10] Eastern District of PA (Church of the Brethren), History of the Church of the Brethren of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Lancaster, PA: The New Era Printing Company, 1915), 328; digital images, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/stream/historyofchurcho00east#page/328/mode/2up : accessed 7 June 2018).


[11] Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book I, Vol. 38: 244, William Nauman et ux to German Baptist Brethren (Fairview Meeting House), 20 March 1895, recorded 18 July 1946; Lancaster County Archives, Lancaster; digital image, Lancaster County Office of the Recorder of Deeds (http://www.lancasterdeeds.com : accessed 7 June 2018).

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